Next steps now we've lost our local mom hangout?
December 23, 2012 6:45 AM Subscribe
I live in a quiet and basically ok city neighborhood that's thinking about gentrifying a little. A few months ago we got a new local cafe/bar that's become a community center for parents. But now they don't want us. Can you give me some insight into why that might be or help me plan how to find us all a new hangout?
posted by crabintheocean to Society & Culture (51 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I live in a safe but not posh part of north London that's full of babies and first-time-buyer parents with professional jobs. There's a large community of moms on maternity leave (up to a year here) or working part-time. There's a really active local moms facebook page even.
A few months ago a hipsterish cafe/bar opened up on our cute but largely vacant central street. It's one of those places that has art on the walls, opens around 10am to serve coffee and cake, and is adults only from 7pm with a full bar and events in the evenings. Everyone was thrilled, it's given folks somewhere to meet up for coffee or lunch, and they’ve also hosted several kids classes that have been packed. Just having it open has improved the feel of the street. It's never packed during the day, but it's never empty, and it's no busier at night.
I've felt a sense of responsibility for this place and everyone I know around here has felt the same. I made sure I spent my coffee and holiday cards budget there, and we had my son's birthday party there. My mom friends invite their mom friends over from other neighborhoods. We’ve been on first name terms with the staff, chatted about expansion plans etc. In the past couple of months however I’ve felt a vague sense of frustration and eyerolling from some of the staff. A few weeks ago they removed the toys and started making the highchairs “on request”. There are sometimes crawling and toddling babies underfoot and I was glad when I heard they were expanding as it seemed like it would allow the space to work better.
My friend and I were there until 6 or so on Friday, doing what we often do, which is to have lunch, coffee and cake, then meet our partners when they’re finished with work for a couple of cocktails. We said happy holidays when we left, everything was nice. Then about 8pm they posted a Facebook announcement that from the New Year (and they are not open again before then) they will only be open from 6pm on weekdays, and they will be adults only from 6pm. No more hangout, no more classes, no notice. Lots of disappointed but polite Facebook comments ensued, and it was made clear that this isn’t a question of there being a lack of daytime traffic. They are doing well and expanding, but they want to focus on evening meals and events. They “hope another business will invest in the community soon”.
I’m honestly pretty butt-hurt, and feel like the way they’ve done this is a big “fuck-you”, and kind of stupid, given that all their business is local and the money in this area is that of two-income families with young kids, and we talk to each other and have networks. I’m trying to set that aside though, because they’re a business and not my business, so it's their call.
Here is my major concern and my real question: I feel like this community of moms is really valuable and kind of fragile, especially as this is quite a reticent and reserved culture. We’ve become very dependant on the random casual friendly interactions that happened at this place. How can I help transfer that to a new hangout? There’s another place with similar hours a block away that I know would love to have this business – they have repeatedly asked me if they should start doing kids events. It’s a café/bar owned by members of a large immigrant group in this part of London, and there’s no reason it wouldn’t work, especially if they added some cakes and sandwiches to their (too heavy for lunch really) menu, but I’m worried it’s just not “cool” enough for some of the moms I know, which frustrates me.
So is there anything I can do to aid the transition to this new place and make it work? I’d be interested into insights on business strategy too to help satisfy my annoyed curiosity about why the owners of hipster-café have decided to go in this direction.